They just have a little more trouble communicating what they're going through, being nonverbal and all. As an owner, you'll need to train yourself to recognize the often subtle signs.

Because whether you have a cat or a dog, caring for an animal that's struggling with impaired hearing comes with its own unique set of challenges — and the sooner you notice something's up, the better care you can offer your beloved pet. 

They Can't Seem to Control Their Volume

If your pet has certain periods where they seem to get unusually loud, it's probably just them doing their thing.

Some animals are naturally excitable. Dogs that bark at even the slightest shifting shadow. Cats that scream at the top of their lungs when it's mealtime. 

However, if the volume, pitch, or overall sound of their barks or meows seems to change without rhyme or reason, that could be your first indication that something is amiss. Because a deaf pet cannot hear their own voice, they cannot effectively regulate their volume. A pet with only partial deafness may also face a similar struggle. 

Pay close attention to how and when the pet vocalizes, as well. Excessive vocalization is especially common in deaf cats and deaf dogs, though the former tend to become more easily disoriented and upset. If, for example, your cat frequently yowls at night — but the vet can't find anything wrong with them — it may be worth considering the possibility that their ears don't work the way they should.

Of course, there's an equally high possibility that they just love the sound of their voice or can't stand the thought of you spending even two seconds not paying attention to them. 

They Seem Wobblier Than They Should

Anyone laboring under the mistaken belief that cats are graceful clearly isn't a pet owner. They're born acrobats, sure. But a cat is just as likely to launch itself face-first into a wall or trip over their own feet going for a toy as they are to pull off some incredible feat of agility.

Dogs, meanwhile, don't tend to have much dexterity to begin with.

There's a difference between genuine clumsiness and balance problems, though. Pay attention to how your pet moves. Do they tend to sway or hold their head at a weird angle as they move? If so, it's time for a visit to the vet. 

Because if they don't have damage to their vestibular nerves, they might well have a severe ear infection. 

They Have a History of Ear Problems

Selective breeding has really made a mess of domesticated dogs. Congenital deafness is among the many health problems suffered by specific breeds. If your canine companion's pedigree appears on this list compiled by Dr. George Strain of Louisiana University, there's a far higher chance you have a deaf dog. 

As for cats? Believe it or not, it's primarily a matter of their coat and eyes. According to Cat Watch Newsletter, which cited Cornell University, 17-22% of white cats without blue eyes are born deaf. Among white cats with blue eyes, this number is significantly higher — 40% if only one eye is blue, and 65-85% if both eyes are blue. 

Genetic and family history aren't the only place you should look, of course. A friend of mine recently adopted a rescue cat. A few months before the adoption, the rescue found the poor thing stuffed in a crate, with one of the worst ear mite infestations the rescue's vets had ever seen. 

He was only three months old. 

In a scenario like that, at least some hearing loss seems inevitable. 

They Aren't Bothered By Loud Noise

Most cats tend to hate vacuum cleaners, and they're wary at best where Roombas are concerned. Many dogs, meanwhile, are at least a little skittish around loud cars, thunder, and fireworks. If your pet isn't bothered by these types of loud noise, that's not a guarantee they're deaf — they might just be weird.

That said, if a pet suddenly stops being afraid of a sound that used to set them on edge, they're probably due for a hearing test. 

They've Got The Shakes

All cats shake their heads occasionally. Dogs, too. When the shaking becomes excessive and is accompanied by constant scratching, it might cause concern. However, it doesn't necessarily signify deafness. 

According to the Huntsville Emergency Vet Clinic, in addition to an ear mite infestation, ear infection, or hearing issues, it could be any of a number of things:

  • Allergies
  • Earwax buildup
  • Disease
  • Presence of foreign bodies in the ear canal
  • Presence of polyps or abnormal masses in the ear canal 
  • Skin irritation at the tip of the ear, such as from a bug bite. 

Caring for a Hearing Impaired Pet

If your pet is indeed hearing impaired, the best advice we can give is to be patient and treat them with all the same love and compassion you would otherwise. Don't ever let them outside unattended, and try to find alternative methods of getting their attention, such as vibrations or treats.